Wednesday, 13 November 2013
What I did today:
• Drove “up the mountain,” as we say around here. Monteagle Mountain. Even though it’s really the Cumberland Plateau. I was on my way to visit a dear friend I’ve known for nearly forty years. She lives in Sewanee, Tennessee (pronounced SWAN-eee), which is the home of the University of the South. (Locals call the university Sewanee too. Confusing, perhaps, but it’s a very small town.) Janet’s husband is an administrator at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, one of the oldest boarding-day schools in the South. Janet is co-owner of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger newspaper. She was taking a day off to be with me. I was taking a day off to be with her. 🙂
• Stopped at Walmart in Manchester because I’d forgotten my zinc lozenges (thought I was getting a cold). Was accosted by two men, independently of one another. One looked right at me: “Don’t they have a gas station at this Walmart?” (Ummm.) The other … I don’t know what he wanted. He was just talking. Possibly to himself. Although he was looking at me and I was the only person in the vicinity. Until the gas station guy came in the door.
• Sat in the car waiting for Janet to come get me. Reading Mary Oliver, weeping over poetry.
• Drove around the assembly grounds. I should say “the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly,” which was established in 1882 as part of the original Chautauqua Institution. In the summer months there is quite a cultural program. And there are many homes (they call them cottages, though some are huge) on the grounds. During the season you can’t enter without a pass, but there were no guards at the gate in mid-November.
Wealthy Nashvillians of the 1880s wanted to escape the brutal summer heat so they built homes on the Assembly grounds; it’s much cooler up here on “Monteagle Mountain.”
Having a house on the assembly grounds is—in this part of the world—a mark of social standing. And frankly, some people are really snotty about it. The fact is, most of these houses are more than a hundred years old, drafty in the winter, hot in the summer, no insulation at all, and practically falling apart. You’d have to have money to maintain one, for sure.
All the houses are named. Sometimes they include the year the house was built. It was fun driving around looking at signs … “At Long Last (1896),” “McKeown Hall,” and this one …
• Learned that Papa Ron’s still exists, so if I’ve ever told you (and I’ve told a lot of people how good Papa Ron’s is) to stop there for a meal, do. It’s within a couple hundred yard of the interstate (I-24) on the east side, so you can’t miss it. Everything fresh and homemade. Great place to stop for a meal if you’re traveling through.
• Had a wonderful lunch at a new restaurant—Dave’s Modern Tavern. Chef owned. Really nice bar in the back. Ran into several of Janet’s friends, three couples who’d been having a leisurely lunch. It’s a small town. (No, really. Monteagle is 1,175; Sewanee is 2,311; Tracy City is 1,481. Together—and they are all right there snuggled up together—they don’t even get to five thousand.)
• Visited the Monteagle Inn. It’s a bed and breakfast, with a little something more—it’s also billed as a retreat and conference center.
Gorgeous grounds, beautiful place for a wedding. They have bushes in pots on their patio and don’t insulate them at all for the winter. (We are planning to insulate ours.) Discussed this potted bush thing (cypress and dogwoods, actually) with owners, who are friends of Janet’s.
• Stopped in at the Dutch Maid Bakery & Cafe in Tracy City; bought some breads to serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas. (They are currently in the freezer: Russian Christmas bread—chocolate and espresso two main ingredients—and Kentucky bourbon bread.)
• Stopped at a tiny grocery store, Mooney’s Market and Emporium (because the owner is a friend of Janet’s and also sells crafts). It’s a natural foods market featuring local foods and other groceries … and antiques and arts and crafts. An interesting mix! Anthing goes on the mountain.
• Had a leisurely afternoon catching up with a very dear friend I haven’t seen in a very long time.